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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE            February 14, 1990

       Scientists associated with NASA's Project Galileo today released a photograph of the planet Venus obtained by the Galileo spacecraft after it swung by Venus on its gravity-assisted way to Jupiter. The picture, one of more than 80 scheduled for the Venus flyby, was taken through a violet filter by Galileo's solid-state camera shortly before 10 p.m. PST on Monday, Feb. 12, at a distance of about 1 million miles from the planet.

       After being stored on the spacecraft's digital tape recorder with Galileo's other Venus observational data, the string of bits making up this image was transferred in batches to spacecraft memory and then read out through the spacecraft radio to Earth. This experimental and difficult approach was necessary because the distance to Earth, and the low-gain antenna Galileo is now using, limit the data rate to 1200 bits per second; the tape recorder's lowest playback rate is more than six times as fast. Most of the Venus science data will be played back later this year when Galileo is close to Earth.

       The Venus flyby increased Galileo's speed by more than 5,000 mph in the first of three planetary gravity-assist steps designed to get the spacecraft to Jupiter in December 1995. The next step is an Earth flyby in December 1990, which also provides opportunities for scientific observation of the Earth and Moon by Galileo's instruments as well as to play back the Venus data and, most important, to gain almost 12,000 mph. The second Earth flyby two years later will add about 8,000 mph and put the spacecraft on its Jupiter track.

       The Galileo Project is managed by the Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications. The mission was launched Oct. 18 by STS-34 Atlantis. Its primary objective is the study of Jupiter, its satellites and magnetosphere in 1995-97.


2/14/90 JHW